How it works
Athletes throw a metal disc weighing 2kg for men, 1kg for women, that is 22cm in diameter for men, and 18cm for women, as far as possible while remaining inside a 2.5-metre diameter circle.
In order for the throw to be measured, the discus must land inside a marked sector and the athlete must not leave the circle before it has landed, and then only from the rear half of the circle.
The thrower typically takes one-and-a-half spins before releasing the discus. Athletes will commonly throw four or six times per competition. In the event of a tie, the winner will be the athlete with the next-best effort.
Greek poet Homer made reference to the event in The Iliad's description of the funeral games for Patroclus around 800BC. The discus was introduced as part of the pentathlon in the Ancient Olympics of 708BC (the first Olympics were held in 776BC). The enduring image of the Greek discus thrower comes from the iconic 5th century BC statue by the great sculptor Myron.
The men’s discus has been part of every modern Olympics. It was also one of the five disciplines contested when women's athletics made its debut at the 1928 Olympic Games in Amsterdam.
Did you know
The first modern athlete to throw the discus while rotating the whole body was Czech athlete Frantisek Janda-Suk. He invented the technique when studying the position of the famous statue of Discobolus. After only one year of developing the technique, he gained the Olympic silver in 1900.
US thrower Al Oerter is one of only two athletes to win the same individual event at four consecutive Olympic Games, from 1956 to 1968. Germany's Lars Riedel won five times at the IAAF World Championships, from 1991 to 1997, and then again in 2001 after finishing third in 1999.
Belarus' 2001 world champion Elena Zvereva is the oldest world champion, and medallist, in any discipline after winning her title at the age of 40 years and 268 days. She became the oldest competitor ever at the IAAF World Championships when she appeared at the 2009 World Championships in Berlin at nearly 49 years of age.
The New Yorker discovered his talent when he hurled a discus that had fallen at his feet on the running track. He became the first man in any sport to win four successive Olympic golds in the same event, triumphing in 1956, 1960, 1964 and 1968 with an Olympic record on each occasion. He also set four world records between 1962 and 1964.
The German competed at 10 IAAF World Championships from 1991 to 2009 and won on three occasions, in 1999, 2005 and 2007. She also won the 1998 European title and since her retirement at the end of the 2009 season she has become a coach and mentor to Germany's new generation of discus throwers.